Newtownabbey councillors have been urged “to look elsewhere” for a new cemetery plot in the borough and to leave the Valley Park out of their plans.
At last week’s Policy and Governance Committee meeting (June 18) councillors passed a motion to employ consultants to draw up a design for a new cemetery in the park.
The council is considering a number of options for a new graveyard because of a lack of space in Carnmoney Cemetery.Although the final decision has yet to be made, an initial design for an 18.5 acre burial site in the park, which would hold 4,600 plots and provide 22 years of burial provision has been drawn up.
Pensioner John Ford, who regularly walks in the park urged Newtownabbey councillors to “look elsewhere”.
The 66-year-old told the Times: “It is totally wrong they are considering building a cemetery in the park.
“All you hear about these days is how people are getting too fat and we are told to get out more and be active and yet they are considering taking away a park - it doesn’t make any sense.
“I walk around the park on most days and there is a lot of people that do the same - there is a real good community of people and we all are upset about this decision - it is terrible.
“The Valley Park should be the jewel in the crown of Newtownabbey, but instead it is being run down and made into a cemetery.
“They need to look elsewhere out in the country somewhere and not even think about the Valley Park.
“This will rip the heart out of the community and it will be a very sad day when the cemetery is built in the park.”
Regular users of the park, who were unaware of the plans, were shocked to learn about the cemetery proposal.
Carnmoney man Robert Jackson, who walks his dog Riddick around the Valley Park every day, said: “I would not be in favour of this.
“There are a lot of people who would use the park and you get to know them. Kids play in the park and a lot of people use it for sports - it would be a shame to see that space lost.
“I would not be keen at all to see any part of the park changed into a cemetery, it is a good public space and it needs to be kept and maintained.”
John Magee and his young family play at the park at least twice a week.
He was shocked to hear about the cemetery proposals.
“My son loves the play facilities in the park,” he told the Times.
“We live in Dalewood and there is a closer park to us, but what we like about the Valley is the amount of green space around it.
“In any new arrangement, it will be important that the play facilities are kept.”
Not everyone the Times that talked to in the park was against the council proposal.
One Carnmoney pensioner, who asked not to be named, said she would be “happy” to see the park go altogether.
She said: “I used to walk around the park all the time, but after seeing what some of those using it get up to, I will be more than happy to see the back of it.
“All the covered places need to be exposed to stop the sick practices that go on and putting in a cemetery would put a stop to it.
“They need a new cemetery and I think the Valley Park would be the best location for it.”
Macedon representative councillor John Scott, who was in the park when the Times stopped by, said the cemetery plans were still in the very early stages.
He said: “Using only a small area of the park for a cemetery is only one of many proposals we are considering - there is still a lot of things to consider before we make any decision.
“Plans have to be drawn up and submitted to the Planning Service, the ground has to be tested, and we have to work with the Hospice on the proposals.
“If it were to go ahead the designs would keep a lot of the park’s features, like the paths, in place, and we would build a play area across the road. It is important to remember this is only a proposal and we are still in the early stages.
“I would urge people to wait and see the full plan, before reacting.”